New York As NBA players and owners wait to see who will blink first, fans are stuck staring at a blank calendar.
NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled the rest of the November games Friday, saying there will not be a full NBA season “under any circumstances.”
The move came about after labor negotiations broke down again when both sides refused to budge on how to split the league’s revenues, the same issue that derailed talks last week.
Now, a full month of NBA games have been canceled, and Stern said there’s no way of getting them back.
“We held out that joint hope together, but in light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances,” he said.
“It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now,” added Stern, who previously canceled the first two weeks of the season.
And he repeated his warnings that the proposals might now get even harsher as the league tries to make up the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be lost as the lockout drags on.
“We’re going to have to recalculate how bad the damage is,” Stern said. “The next offer will reflect the extraordinary losses that are piling up now.”
Just a day earlier, Stern had said he would consider it a failure if the sides didn’t reach a deal in the next few days and vowed they would take “one heck of a shot” to get it done.
Instead, negotiations broke off again over the division of basketball-related income, just as they did last Thursday. Union executive director Billy Hunter said the league again insisted it had to be split 50-50, while Stern said Hunter just walked out, rather than discuss going below 52 percent.
Owners are insistent on a 50-50 split, while players last formally proposed they get 52.5 percent, leaving them about $100 million apart annually. Players were guaranteed 57 percent in the previous collective bargaining agreement.
“Derek (Fisher) and I made it clear that we could not take the 50-50 deal to our membership. Not with all the concessions that we granted,” Hunter said. “We said we got to have some dollars.”
Instead, they’ll now be out roughly $350 million, the losses Hunter previously projected for each month the players were locked out. He believed a full season could be played if a deal were made this weekend, but Stern emphatically ruled out any hope of that now.
“These are not punitive announcements; these are calendar generated announcements,” Stern said.
No further talks have been scheduled.
There was a sense of optimism entering the day after progress was made on salary cap issues during about 24 hours of talks over the previous two days. Then the sides brought the revenue split back into the discussion Friday and promptly got stuck on both issues.
Union president Fisher said it was difficult to say why talks broke down, or when they would start up again.
There was some good news.
Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said there was essentially a “tentative agreement” on most system issues, with Stern rattling off some of them: Owners agreed to keep the midlevel exception starting at $5 million a year; and contract lengths would be five years for players staying with their teams and four when leaving for another.
“And then we hit a wall,” Stern said.